If you’re an Edinburgh local, there’s a good chance you’ll have visited IKEA at some point but were you aware that a beautiful secret garden lies across the road from it? Sitting in the shadow of the Pentland Hills, the Secret Herb Garden stretches out over seven acres and is home to a beautiful shop, cafe, rose garden, fairy wood, several vegetable gardens, beehives, plus it’s the only gin botanical garden with a distillery in the UK. This peaceful haven has been created by owners Hamish and Liberty who bought the derelict plot of land in 2012 with the dream “to create a green space that allowed people to wander freely and enjoy the subtle magic that nature offers”.
One of the first things you’ll spot as you arrive is their glasshouse. Upon entering it, a path leads you around a maze-like trail of greenery, guiding you past familiar scents of oregano and thyme. Natural light fills the place and depending on what time of year you visit you may spot grapes hanging from the ceiling or pears and peaches adorning the trees. As you delve deeper into the glasshouse, you’ll come across the occasional table and chairs hidden amongst the foliage which is part of the delightful cafe run by the team behind Edinburgh’s Fhior restaurant. The family-friendly café offers a seasonal menu that makes use of as much of the fresh produce grown on-site as possible. It’s such a wonderful thought that what you’re eating has been harvested freshly that morning! For those looking to have a drink and a nibble, there’s a wonderful selection of freshly baked scones and cakes to choose from.
Once you’ve taken time to enjoy the glasshouse (and maybe indulged in a cake or two), head outside to their tranquil garden. Their outdoor space is divided up into several sections but it’s completely up to you how you choose to explore the garden. Thinking back to my first visit, there was a wonderful sense of freedom at being allowed to roam freely and to explore whatever took your fancy. That day, we ended up following a path which led us down to visit their resident pigs and bees, through a patch of herbs grown for their Old Curiosity Distillery gin, and back toward the glasshouse through an array of flower gardens. One thing I highly recommend keeping an eye out for is their vintage taxis. These charming taxis are spending their retirement ensconced in wildflowers with their bonnet’s bursting full of chamomile, lavender, and thyme.
Before you leave, don’t forget to pop into their beautiful shop where you can pick up a bottle of Old Curiosity Distillery gin, plants and herbs, vintage furniture and local produce.
How to visit from Edinburgh’s city centre? The easiest way to reach the Secret Herb Garden is by car but there are several buses including Lothian Bus 4, 15, and 47 which take between 35-45 minutes and will bring you within walking distance of it.